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New Orleans at Atlanta

Saints hold on for OT win vs. Falcons

CBSSports.com wire reports
  •  

ATLANTA -- A disconsolate Mike Smith watched the chip-shot field goal sail through the uprights, then walked slowly across the field, his head down, to shake hands with the other coach.

Smith knew this loss was on him.

John Kasay kicked a 26-yard field goal in overtime after the Atlanta coach decided to go for it on fourth down deep in his own territory Sunday, a decision that backfired horribly and handed the New Orleans Saints a 26-23 victory over the Falcons.

"I know it will be scrutinized all week long," Smith said. "I want everybody to understand I take full responsibility."

New Orleans (7-3) took control of the NFC South race, snapping Atlanta's three-game winning streak. But this one will be long remembered for Smith's gutsy and ill-fated call, especially if this loss comes back to cost the defending division champion Falcons a return to the playoffs.

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Atlanta (5-4) rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, tying it on Matt Bryant's 27-yard field goal on the final play of regulation.

In overtime, Atlanta appeared to pick up a first down on a pass to Mike Cox, but he was ruled just short after referee Terry McAuley looked at the replay. Then, stunningly, Smith decided to go for it on fourth down from his own 29.

Michael Turner was stuffed.

Game over.

"We were going to be aggressive in all that we did," Smith said. "Unfortunately, it did not work out."

After each offense went three-and-out on its first possession of overtime, Atlanta faced third-and-1 from the 29. Matt Ryan flipped a pass to Cox, the backup fullback, who was met short of the 30 but stretched out the ball with his right arm, appearing to get it across the line. It was initially ruled a first down, but the replay showed he was bobbling the ball as he was going down along the sideline, and the spot was moved back.

The Falcons initially sent on the punting team, then called timeout. After thinking it over, Smith decided to go for it, figuring his team could pick up the foot or so needed to keep the drive going.

Boy, did that turn out to be a mistake.

CBSSports.com Grades
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
C
Some aspects of play for the Saints were good. Their offensive line kept Drew Brees upright and gave him tons of time. However, New Orleans was outgained, failed to win the time of possession battle, and gave up a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter to Atlanta. Even with the win, New Orleans should wonder how things went so wrong.
Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons
D
Atlanta's secondary has serious issues, and QB Matt Ryan is still having problems with accuracy, but when the Falcons faced a 10-point deficit late in the fourth quarter, they banded together and forced overtime. However, the offense couldn't do anything right in overtime and a poor coaching decision that gave New Orleans the ball in field goal range ended Atlanta's day.
By Knox Bardeen
RapidReports Correspondent

Ryan handed off to Turner, but the bruising runner never had a chance. He was swarmed by a pile of defenders and actually lost a couple of feet, and the jubilant Saints took over. Four plays later, Kasay won it with his fourth field goal of the game.

"I just saw a guy in my face as soon as I got the ball," Turner said. "I would like to have it back. I would love to be in that situation again."

New Orleans coach Sean Payton coached the game on crutches in his return to the sideline after a collision with one of his players left him with a broken left leg and severe knee injuries nearly a month ago.

"I just felt like this was an important game," Payton said. "That presence is important. I talked to the doctors this morning."

Drew Brees went 30 of 43 for 322 yards, including a pair of touchdowns. Marques Colston had eight catches for 113 yards. The Saints were certainly glad to have their coach among them, not sending down calls from the booth.

"It was great having him, just his presence," Brees said. "He couldn't wait to get back down there. He has his hands in everything."

Ryan threw a staggering 52 passes, completing 29 for 351 yards and two touchdowns. Harry Douglas became his favorite receiver after rookie Julio Jones left the game, sidelined again by an ailing hamstring. Douglas finished with eight receptions for 133 yards.

Turner rushed for 96 yards, but couldn't get the one yard that mattered most.

"We've just got to get a couple inches. Make that play and move on," center Todd McClure groaned. "I like the fact our coach has faith in us to make the play."

Brees was impressed by Smith's courage, if nothing else.

"It takes some steel and you-know-what to make that call," the quarterback said. "This one play is the game."

In regulation, Atlanta was down to its last chance, facing fourth-and-3 at the New Orleans 45 with about 4½ minutes remaining. Ryan kept the drive going by hitting Roddy White on a 6-yard completion, then struck quickly with two more passes to make a game of it. A 19-yarder to White was followed by a 20-yard touchdown to Tony Gonzalez with 4:13 to go, bringing the Falcons to 23-20.

With only one timeout remaining, the Falcons felt compelled to try an onside kick. It didn't work.

The Saints moved into position to give Kasay a 45-yard try. He drilled the kick right down the middle, but Jimmy Graham was called for holding and New Orleans decided to back up the Falcons with a punt.

After Eric Weems made a fair catch at the Atlanta 5, the Falcons put together a clutch drive that forced OT. Ryan hooked up three times with Douglas on completions totaling 66 yards, and Atlanta actually had plenty of time to take three shots at the end zone for a winning touchdown.

They caught a break on Ryan's first throw over the middle, which was right in the hands of New Orleans safety Roman Harper. He couldn't hang on. Ryan then looked for White, but Jabari Greer got a hand on the ball to knock it away. After one more incompletion, Bryant trotted on to make his third field goal.

Notes

  • Brees extended his NFL record with a 30th straight game completing at least 20 passes.
  • Bryant missed a 41-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, snapping his franchise-record streak of 30 in a row over two seasons.
  • The Saints rushed for just 41 yards on 16 carries.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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The Saints' Robert Meachem celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Falcons. (Getty Images)
The Saints' Robert Meachem celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Falcons. (Getty Images)

 

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Sun. Nov. 13Final OT
OT
3776326
Atlanta
(5-4)
33710023
SaintsFalcons
Pass: D. Brees (30-43, 322) M. Ryan (29-52, 351)
Rush: P. Thomas (6-29) M. Turner (22-96)
Rec: M. Colston (8-113) H. Douglas (8-133)
Scoring Summary
1ST QUARTER
FGMatt Bryant, 36 Yd, 6:20. Drive: 16 plays, 61 yards in 8:40.
FGJohn Kasay, 52 Yd, 2:48. Drive: 8 plays, 30 yards in 3:32.
2ND QUARTER
FGMatt Bryant, 29 Yd, 9:25. Drive: 9 plays, 45 yards in 5:21.
TDJimmy Graham, 21 Yd pass from Drew Brees (John Kasay kick is good), 2:34. Drive: 3 plays, 50 yards in 1:01.
3RD QUARTER
TDJason Snelling, 21 Yd pass from Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant kick is good), 5:08. Drive: 10 plays, 70 yards in 6:04.
TDRobert Meachem, 33 Yd pass from Drew Brees (John Kasay kick is good), 1:31. Drive: 7 plays, 82 yards in 3:37.
4TH QUARTER
FGJohn Kasay, 48 Yd, 11:57. Drive: 6 plays, -4 yards in 2:56.
FGJohn Kasay, 44 Yd, 7:13. Drive: 8 plays, 62 yards in 3:35.
TDTony Gonzalez, 20 Yd pass from Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant kick is good), 4:13. Drive: 9 plays, 81 yards in 3:00.
FGMatt Bryant, 27 Yd, 0:00. Drive: 13 plays, 85 yards in 1:55.
OT
FGJohn Kasay, 26 Yd, 8:25. Drive: 4 plays, 21 yards in 2:21.
Players of the Game
Atlanta

M. Ryan
Att 52
Comp 29
Yds 351
TD 2
New Orleans

D. Brees
Att 43
Comp 30
Yds 322
TD 2
 
New Orleans
PassingCP/ATYDSTDINT
D. Brees30/4332220
RushingATTYDSTDLG
P. Thomas629016
M. Ingram81106
D. Sproles2101
ReceivingRECYDSTDLG
M. Colston8113019
J. Graham782129
R. Meachem269136
L. Moore128028
J. Collins112012
P. Thomas4907
D. Thomas2408
M. Ingram1303
D. Sproles4205
Atlanta
PassingCP/ATYDSTDINT
M. Ryan29/5235121
RushingATTYDSTDLG
M. Turner2296021
J. Rodgers730013
M. Ryan1909
H. Douglas1303
J. Snelling1000
ReceivingRECYDSTDLG
H. Douglas8133046
T. Gonzalez671120
R. White462020
J. Snelling225121
E. Weems325011
M. Turner110010
J. Jones2906
J. Rodgers1808
M. Cox2808
Complete Player Stats
Other Games
OAK 24 Final
SD 17
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CAR 3
DET 13 Final
CHI 37
PIT 24 Final
CIN 17
STL 13 Final
CLE 12
BUF 7 Final
DAL 44
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IND 3
DEN 17 Final
KC 10
WAS 9 Final
MIA 20
ARI 21 Final
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HOU 37 Final
TB 9
BAL 17 Final
SEA 22
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SF 27
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GB 45